euphoric / theme

The breath is essential to the euphoric: gasps, breathlessness, quick, shallow inhalations and exhalations -- the swirl of air and the mysterious motions of oxygen embody the spirit of euphoria. It's a heady feeling, a sense that the body has dissolved or lightened. Euphoria is the companion of a dance in warm rain, an unlikely sprint across a field or half a dozen city blocks, an astonishing or an unexpected victory.


Themes represent basic categories of thought, emotion, or value. While our assignment of themes may at times seem arbitrary or whimsical, they serve to link together artists and movements along non- hierarchial pathways. Follow the themes to look for new disciplines that share qualities with those you already like, or to open up new worlds of Art and Culture.

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Young performers find joy in face of Uganda's tragedy

Young performers find joy in face of Uganda's tragedy By Valerie Gladstone, Globe Correspondent | April 22, 2006 NEW YORK -- To the sound of rhythmic drumming, 11 girls in the troupe Children of Uganda strutted onto the stage at the Joyce Theater in New York recently. It was the start of a rehearsal for the electrifying show they have performed in more than 25 American cities since January and will present at the Berklee Performance Center tonight and tomorrow. Waving their arms overhead and kicking up their legs, they formed a circle in front of the drummers as three tall men and one small, feisty girl sang a sweet song, accompanied by xylophones, pipes, and flutes. Performing in practice clothes, not their multicolored costumes of brightly patterned Ugandan cloth, raffia skirts, leg rattles, beaded jewelry, and headpieces, the dancers moved as if they were at a boisterous family party. Peter Kasule, the elegant 25-year-old artistic director and the MC for the show, put up his hands to end the sequence. Kasule, who previously performed with the troupe, explained that they'd been a little off-tempo. Noting his correction, they began again. Then the boys jumped in with great theatrical flourish, smiling broadly as their feet moved to the rapid rhythms. Children of Uganda are phenomenal, both as artists and as people. All 22 members, who range in age from 6 to 18, have been orphaned by AIDS or war and live in the Daughters of Charity orphanage in Kampala. In Uganda, 2.4 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and civil war. ''We dance and sing and drum about the beauty of Africa and Uganda," Kasule said. ''We don't talk about our tragedies. We want people to see our joy and to create hope." The troupe, which has performed at the White House, on ''Late Night With David Letterman," and with U2's Bono and is now on its sixth US tour, exists largely because of the Herculean efforts of Alexis Hefley, a former Texas banker, who founded the nonprofit Uganda Children's Charity Foundation in 1995 to help children affected by the country's poverty, illiteracy, and disease. As the rehearsal continued, Hefley watched intently from a seat in the orchestra and recalled the first time she saw children from the orphanage perform. She had just arrived in Uganda, driven by her religious faith to try to find a way to relieve some of the country's problems. ''The nun in charge wasn't your ordinary nun," Hefley said. ''She was more like Whoopi Goldberg. She encouraged the children to dance and sing, and they'd perform for local weddings, graduations, and for visiting dignitaries. When I saw their happiness in spite of all that they had suffered, they inspired me to help them find a way out of their circumstances." After assisting at the orphanage for a year and a half, Hefley returned to Dallas, established the foundation, and began raising money for the orphanage and the orphans' education. ''I realized that if people could just see them and become aware of how happy and talented they are," she said, ''they would want to help." She was not wrong. UCCF began by housing and schooling 50 children; it now cares for 750, offering eight of them scholarships to attend American colleges; a tutor travels with the company. Kasule is in his final year at the College of Santa Fe, where he is studying music technology to become a music producer. Hefley now wants to establish a multipurpose center for the performing arts, where the children would study music, dance, drama, and radio, recording, and computer technology. Earnings from the tours, private donations, and grants from foundations, corporations, and faith-based institutions fund UCCF's activities. Given the dire conditions in much of Uganda, how does UCCF choose who can live in the orphanage? ''We take the children living in the most vulnerable circumstances," Hefley said. ''They've either been stranded without an adult to care for them or their region has been affected by the rebels, especially in the north, and it's not secure for them. Our little 6-year-old, Miriam Namala, an amazing singer, lost her father to AIDS, and her HIV-positive mother was too sick to care for her. By the time she was 3, she was caring for her family." And who becomes a member of the troupe? ''The most talented," she said. ''When you see them perform, you know who they are." Kasule put troupe members through three months of rigorous training before the tour. ''They have to learn a variety of dances," he said. ''Many Ugandans intermarry with people from the bordering countries. I like to represent those areas as well. Add to that that there are 52 ethnic groups in Uganda. So we have a lot to draw on, for each group has at least four dances that they treasure, each with its own distinctive movements, music, and costumes." Zaam Nandyose, 16, loves the rousing ''Bakisimba," which celebrates the creation of banana wine for a king of ancient Uganda. The musicians and dancers mimic the king's increasingly wobbly walk as he becomes drunk. ''It feels very natural in my body," she said. ''And it's fun. I never thought I'd have fun after my father passed away. I was so sad that I thought it was the end of my life. But dancing with this company has changed everything."

Flights of Fancy

Flights of fancy Elizabeth Streb, a self-described 'action architect,' has made a career of gravity-defying choreography By Valerie Gladstone, Globe Correspondent | February 18, 2007 NEW YORK -- "Ready, go!" screams Christine Chen as a 25-foot hamster wheel begins to rotate during a recent rehearsal. Her voice echoing in a huge garage in Williamsburg , Brooklyn , she throws herself face down from its upper reaches onto a thick red mat and lands with a noisy splat. As she rebounds into a standing position and races to the side of the room, Fabio Tavares leaps onto the wheel and clamors to the top. Ami Ipapo almost smashes her head as she swings herself onto a lower rung right below him. "Watch out," yells choreographer Elizabeth Streb, 56, pushing her oversize black eyeglasses back on her forehead and rising to her feet from a nearby chair. Throwing up her hands, she acts as if it were the first time she'd seen her phenomenally athletic dancers almost hurt themselves. In fact, injury comes with the territory. But to her, it's worth it. "I know what wild action does to people," she says. "I know how cathartic it is and how it incites the spirit." Streb brings "STREB vs. Gravity," a series of spectacular acts including the thrilling "Revolution," with the wheel, and the lyrical "Orbit," to the Institute of Contemporary Art Thursday through Feb. 25. Accompanied by pop hits, with a set by Michael Casselli lit with red and blue lights and video projections of letters, numbers, photographs, and text serving as a constantly moving backdrop, the show dazzles in every way. Since establishing her company STREB in 1985, the choreographer has been devising the most acrobatic and daring work in modern dance. It's won praise and appreciative gasps everywhere the group has performed, including Grand Central Station, Coney Island, and at halftime of a Seattle SuperSonics NBA game. Acknowledging her intrepid and inventive approach, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation honored Streb with a "genius award" in 1997, which she used to study math and read philosophy. After making sure Ipapo is OK, Streb steps away to explain her approach, which is always based on physics. "I start by coming up with questions like, 'Can you provide yourself with a completely frictionless surface?' " she says. "Then I develop a prototype of the environment with my designers before taking it to a structural engineer who builds it. I bring that into the studio and start developing vocabulary with the dancers. They engage in what I call reckless play. That's where I get my material. I think of them as method engineers and myself as an action architect." Slight and intense, her short black hair worn in a Mohawk, Streb still looks like the motorcycle racer she was as a rebellious young woman growing up in Rochester, N.Y. Her experience as a downhill skier in the area only increased her inborn passion for risk. Later, she earned her degree in modern dance from the State University of New York in Brockport and studied with choreographers such as Viola Farber and Margaret Jenkins . But only the work of Merce Cunningham truly fascinated her, and no one served as her model, except perhaps motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel . Streb describes "Revolution" as one of the most confounding pieces she has created. Taking a seat at a makeshift desk on which sit a computer and drawings of the wheel, she says, "Every dancer must make two choices as the wheel turns -- first, how to stay on, and second, how to make their movements coexist with the others. They can't see each other when they are on the outside of the wheel. They never see each other, all they can see is the inside of the wheel. The forces that are generated can be very surprising." Streb points to a drawing that illustrates the dancers' various positions. "They only know someone has jumped off when they hear him or her shout a command," she says. " They create all the commands, odd names like 'Hercules' and 'Maple Syrup.' It makes all the difference who is on and who is off. They could hit someone if they don't know. They wear mikes and the entire set is miked. Everything is amplified so the audience fully appreciates what feats these guys accomplish." As protective and reassuring as a mother with her dancers, she says affectionately, "They are my heroes." Streb's warm and enthusiastic manner, plus some business savvy, have helped her establish a vital base in the Williamsburg community. Until four years ago, she lived a nomadic existence, like most contemporary choreographers, traveling from studio to studio to rehearse. But her ordeal was compounded by her use of a lot of big, heavy, cumbersome equipment. Realizing the need for a permanent base, she convinced local politicians and real estate developers to help finance the renovation of the warehouse, formerly a mustard factory, and give her a reasonable rent. In exchange, she happily agreed to provide neighborhood kids and adults with classes and shows. "I wanted to make this place a bit like the corner bodega," she says, "where people would want to hang out." One need only visit SLAM, the Streb Laboratory for Action Mechanics, to see how well she has succeeded. The place is alive from morning to evening with classes, rehearsals, and birthday parties. Children and teenagers take over the space, eager to be taught by Streb's dancers what she calls "pop action." This involves learning how to climb walls, bounce on trampolines, and use her flying apparatus. She describes her technique as "the ability to fly, low to the ground, and fall from ever higher and higher, with the help of complex technical equipment." No one has been closer artistically to Streb than Terry Dean Bartlett, her associate artistic director, who has been with the troupe for 10 years. "It's a real honor to work with Elizabeth," he says. "Every day, she creates amazing new stuff. Where else could I get that?" At the ICA, they won't be able to drill holes in the floor, as usual, to secure equipment with cables. So they'll attach cables to the ceiling and use thousands of pounds of pig iron to weigh things down. With only an hour left before the schoolkids arrive at SLAM, Streb rehearses "Orbit," a beautiful piece in which two dancers are harnessed to a pole and skillfully spiral, connecting in orbits that change in speed and dimension. Ipapo and Aaron Henderson put on their harnesses and swing out, moving farther and farther away from each other. Bathed in blue light, they look like underwater swimmers in a dreamlike grotto. Pleased with their work, Streb lets all the dancers go for the day. But before they leave, they rest for a few moments. Performing such dangerous moves creates camaraderie, and they sit around together, sharing snacks and tips on how to better accomplish certain moves. They have no doubt about the value of doing Streb's work. "I love the constant challenge," says Dee Ann Nelson. "You develop a progression of skills that's never ending." Ipapo adds, "When you confront fear on a daily basis, it translates into other areas of your life. You really grow." Streb will speak about her work Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Science. For information, visit mos.org/art. © Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company